We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

It’s a rare public-policy book that informs readers that “around 80 percent of all American men have received blowjobs” (though the pressing question is what the other 20 percent are doing). Indeed, Michael Elliott’s new book—The Day Before Yesterday: Reconsidering America’s Past, Rediscovering the Present—aspires to much more than public policy. A British expatriate and former Economist editor, Elliott tries to explain why Americans feel so bad when, all things considered, the economy is pretty good. Part of the reason—and this is where the blowjobs come in—is that we underwent profound cultural and moral changes in the 1970s. The main reason is that the economy slowed down from unusual, unprecedented growth after World War II. In short, Elliott crafts a grand theory that packs in just about everything. It’s a sort of Tocqueville for the ’90s, and it makes sense mostly if you accept the view that people look to the past to decide how they’re doing in the present. Test Elliott at 6 p.m. at the Museum of American History, Carmichael Auditorium, 14th & Constitution, NW. $13. (202) 357-3030. (John Cloud)